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Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
One of the hardest concepts to understand about Awakening, for some of my friends, was that Magic doesn't follow the laws of physics and as such you can't do bullshit like transforming the floor into super dangerous chemicals to insta-kill everything.


Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Hipster Occultist posted:

You still kinda can, but you're still rolling Gnosis + Arcana so good luck rolling enough successes to pull off that kind of insta-kill damage.

In Ascension however, feel free to transmute air into cyanide gas or w/e the gently caress you want. Hell, with prime 2 you can conjure objects out of nothing. Unlimited C4 anyone?

Yeah, that's what I mean: in Awakening the roll is result based rather than power based: if your intent is to do damage, then it's rolled as a damage spell instead of a transmutation spell or whatever. Because you're using the rules of the Supernal Realms, not the rules of our world.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

LornMarkus posted:

Seriously, just reading the signs they have up in that forest is pretty heartbreaking. They don't even bother to be official "no trespassing" or anything like that, they're straight up pleas like, "think of your family."

Not sure if that family sign would help or actually do the opposite and precipitate the suicide.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
The Order of Hermes are quite simply the best Tradition. :colbert:

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Kavak posted:

Ascension should've stayed dead with the rest of the old World of Darkness.


I like the oWoD fine, but it was very much a creature of it's time and should have stayed dead. The nWoD was a more than worthy successor.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
It's funny how most of the Crafts had joined the Traditions by the time of Revised, making the Disparate Alliance useless and redundant.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
It's funny how the group of Nephandis who serve the Wyrm are called the Malfeans, while there are actual creatures of pure oblivion in the setting called Malfeans (from Wraith). They're also more frightening than the Wyrm by a wide margin.

When I first read Mage 2E so many years ago, I found the Nephandi really scary: they literally inverted their own souls in the search for total oblivion. And yet none of the various expanded takes on them over the years ever came close to being as evocative as their original two paragraph description. Sometimes more is less, I guess.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I remember playing a semi-long (and pretty fun) campaign of In Nomine. I played an Ofanim of Yves, and the other players characters were a Mercurian of Marc, a Bright Lilim of Blandine, an Elohim of Eli and a Kiryotates of Jean. The gamemaster implemented a long list of houserules and the game was still hilariously broken and unbalanced.

I remember being the only party member who did not have some scanning power and so every time we met a new npc the game stopped for an hour as every other PCs scanned him/her and the gm had to invent a five-page history for the npc.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
It's funny, I thought I remembered Nuclear Liches being playable, if extremely high-point.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
Library Card was the best attunement in the game I played.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Razakai posted:

In Nomine might have some flaws in gameplay, but it's a pretty awesome setting with the right GM. A Goon here ran a ridiculous game with the party as demons serving Furfur, Prince of Hardcore (sex, drugs and rock&roll). By the end of the campaign they had:

- Killed 2 demon princes
- Redeemed a demon prince
- Caused an archangel to fall, temporarily
- Accidentally created a new archangel
- Redeemed a few hundred demons
- Punched a nuclear missile to death
- Served Lucifer shots at a bar

On the balance of things they were pretty terrible at being demons, but they were hardcore enough that their prince forgave them.

Agreed, the game I was in was way fun too, although it was more low-key than this. Game was set in the 50s, with cold-war spy poo poo mixed with angelic warfare.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I like Ravenloft! :downs:

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
It does change things from a relatively static setting to one where a lot of old truths no longer hold sway and there's plenty of opportunities. You're no longer working against all the institutions who want to keep the status quo.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I'd volunteer to cover the 3.X Ravenloft material, since it's the one that made fall in love with the setting, but I don't trust myself to actually finish it (I never finished that Wraith: the Great War review).

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Bieeardo posted:

Okay, I'm definitely intrigued now.

gently caress it, unless someone beats me to it, I'll :justpost: tomorrow.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Ratoslov posted:

Maybe Asmodeus's word, which he interprets as 'everything', is giving Eli word-friction like Gabriel.

It's all in the game, yo.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

An Introduction

So, what is Ravenloft? It's a Campaign Setting for D&D, a fairly old one, that has had multiple iterations over the years. It has garnered a substantial fanbase over the years, a couple of computer games, a board game spin-off and will be the first non-Forgotten Realms setting to get a book in D&D 5E. It's hook is that it mixes D&D with old-school horror tropes, like vampires and werewolves and Doctor Moreau's Island and all that. Throughout it's hsitory, this has meant either an horrible pc-grinder where the GM murders everyone or a Castlevania-style "Punch Dracula in the face with fire fists" adventure. It started in 1990 with an adventure that could be set in any setting where you fought an evil vampire lord, totally-not-dracula Strahd von Zarovich.

This adventure

Despite being a notoriously tpk-prone adventure, Ravenloft was popular enough to get a sequel adventure and then an official campaign setting. The original Ravenloft setting for AD&D 2E was very-much focused on "weekend in hell" type adventures where adventurers from other settings are randomly dropped into some corner of Ravenloft to have spoooooky adventures and then go back home. Domains came and went all the time, chunks from other popular settings were randomly dropped into the setting (there's Dark Sun realm, a Dragonlance realm, Vecna had his own place, etc.), but there was a lot of cool stuff and the setting developed a devoted fanbase. Especially popular were the Van Richten's Guides series of books, guides to various monster races full of interesting info and useful gaming material, supposedly written by the setting's pre-eminent monsterhunter and Peter Cushing impersonator Rudolph van Richten. When Third Edition came around and the D20 scene exploded, White Wolf started it's own line of D20 books under the brand Sword & Sorcery. And they decided, since they were the "horror guys", to license the Ravenloft setting from Wizards of the Coast. The setting got refocused to center around native adventurers instead of visitors from other settings, got rid of most of the stuff referencing other settings (WW did not have the rights to those) and was overall tighter written. They put out some great books, some garbage one (no line is perfect) and eventually faded out due to not selling enough (the last book written, Van Richten's Guide to the Mists, was never officially published but can be found on the internet). There was no 4E update of the setting, thought there was a boardgame using modified 4E rules (Expedition to Castle Ravenloft). The Shadowfell was also heavily inspired by Ravenloft. I think this was a missed opportunity, seeing how good 4E Dark Sun was: it's decision to keep most of the setting stuff to cosmetic rule changes instead of huge changes to the rules that randomly screws over players would have fit with a more Castlevania approach to Ravenloft. Anyway. Now, a new Ravenloft adventure has been announced for 5E, heralding the return in print of the setting after a 10-year absence. I'm going to cover the 3E/White Wolf era of the setting, cause it'S the one I have, but there's a ton of 2E material someone else could go over too.

So after this history lesson, what is Ravenloft? What's the setting like? Well, it's a giant dimensional prison, created by powerful beings known only as "The Dark Powers", purposefully never given a canonic origin or explanation. They created the "Demiplane of Dread" deep within the ethereal realm, kidnapped a bunch of evil motherfuckers, gave them each a country or realm fit with their particular personalities, cursed them (because why not) and then watched what happens. So Ravenloft is a hodge-podge of realms shamelessly ripped off various horror movies/novels, each with their own boss monster. The realms are trapped within magical Mists that do whatever the plot demands of them. That's the (very) short description of course, I'm gonna cover this stuff more in-depth starting with my next post, where I'll start reading the Ravenloft Campaign Setting.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 1: Setting overview

This book is organized like a White Wolf book rather than a D&D book, complete with an absolutely useless index. Chapter 1, then, is an introduction to the world of Ravenloft. It opens with an excerpt from the legendary Tome of Strahd where the titular vampire remembers his backstory: he was a brutal warlord who fell in love with the fiancee of his (much younger) brother. He got a complex over his old age, so he made a pact with death, killed his brother on the wedding day and tried to steal the bride. To no one's surprise, it didn't work. She jumped to her death, he became a vampire, his entire castle (Castle Ravenloft! title drop!) was transported into the Mists and now he's cursed forever.

The major inspiration for Ravenloft is the Gothic literary genre, fathered by Horace Walpole, a "dilettante author enraptured with his own romantic vision of the middle ages". His novel The Castle of Otranto set a lot of the rules of the genre. We read a quick overview of the genre:
Early Gothic Tales followed the formula set by Otranto: crumbling castle reflecting the heart of the villain, innocent hero/maiden, ancestral curses, Good vs Evil clashing and the villain eventually losing more due to his own evil and the divine forces than anything the hero(es) actually did.
The Late Gothic Tradition saw authors focus a lot more on the villain, and re-imagines a lot of old creatures into new forms. This is the when Victor Frankenstein and the first vampire novels come in.
The Victorian Revival sees the creation of the "consulting detective" by Edgar Allan Poe, and of course Dracula is written. Heroes return, with people like Van Helsing, Carnacki, John Silence and Solomon Kane fighting the forces of darkness.
And of course the genre still exists to this day: every Dracula and Frankenstein that comes out if a new Gothic tale, following in the footsteps of their predecessors.

After the inspiration comes the Realm of Dread itself. While at first Ravenloft appears to be a normal Low-Magic Setting to most of ti'S inhabitants, in truth it is a constructed world (probably made by one of those rear end in a top hat Pathfinder wizards from the Murphy thread) that follows it's own set of rules:
- Good and evil alignments cannot be detected: people have to use their own judgments. This doe snot mean that Good and Evil do not exist, however, as innocent characters find themselves subtly protected and truly evil characters are tempted and cursed by the Dark Powers.
- Necromancy is stronger, but much harder to control.
- Divination is unreliable, unless you're a Vistani, Ravenloft's special tribe of gypsies (...yeah :cripes:).
- Travel through the Mists is unreliable and can dump you in strange places, and powerful magic is needed to travel from one Domain to another. Nothing can help you get out of a Closed Domain.
- It's impossible to travel to other Planes except the Near Ethereal.

So, what are Domains? They're the building blocks of Ravenloft, each a special-made prison for an evil being known as a Darklord. Darklords are given great powers, but are also given a personal curse to torment them. They can never escape their Domains, except through death (with one exception, saved by his author throwing a tantrum). They can, however, close the borders of their Domains. Each one does it in a different way, but it's always a spectacular show of supernatural power. As an example, Strahd can close the borders of Barovia (his Domain) by summoning a thick fog of poisonous vapors that no magic can overcome. Domains vary in size and territory: some are huge swaths of land while others are a single mansion or even a small room.

The Mists are the claws of the Dark Powers. The Misty Border surrounds the world, isolating domains and clusters. There are Mistways, passage through the Mists that (usually) lead to specific places, but outside of them any traveler will soon be lost in an infinite gray fog. Only some powerful Clerics and Vistani can safely travel the Mists. They can appear at any place, at any time, snatching people away or dropping them off, with no logic anyone can fathom. People known as Outlanders are sometimes snatched by the Mists from other realms (the way to get a weekend-in-hell adventure in the old days), in fact most Darklords were originally Outlanders.

Speaking of Darklords, few people actually know of their existence. Some rule their Domain openly, while others either work in the shadows or might not have any political power at all. Darklords are not mindless savages, they had to choose tho commit horrible crimes to merit being chosen by the Dark Powers. Darklords can be destroyed, at which point either a new Darklord arises to take over the domain, the domain is absorbed by another one or the domain simply vanishes back into the Mists.

Next time: History

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Count Chocula posted:

I love how D&D's insistence on convoluted rules means that they need a whole page of weird explanations and numbers to explain "there's a gothic realm with twisted monsters your dudes can fight". The whole Alignments thing and just general... straightness of D&D works against the gothic setting, but somehow it also makes me like Ravenloft a bit 'cause at least they try.

Oh trust me, when we get to the mechanics chapter, you'll get a poo poo-ton of needless rules-finagling.

Count Chocula posted:

Is Castle of Otranto the one with the random helmet falling one somebody?

Quick google search says yes!

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 3: History

The history of Ravenloft is a mess, and not just because of the usual writer conflict and cosmic retcons. Every Domain that enters the Mists has it's own history, often conflicting with each other. For convenience's sake, the Barovian Calendar (BC) is used through most of the lands.

Pre-351: The Times Before
Our good friend Strahd is born around 299, becomes a warlord that throws out the Terg (not-Ottomans) out of Barovia (not-Transylvania/Walachia) and then in 31 makes his ill-thought pact to become the first known Darklord.

351-469: A Private Hell
Barovia is all alone the Mists as the original Island of Terror. Few records remain of this era, but it is known that Strahd hunted down Leo Dilisnya, a rival noble who tried to have him assassinated the day of the fateful wedding (trying for his own Red Wedding, I guess). The Dilisnya family remains notorious to this day.

470-546: Outlanders arrive
People start to notice the random adventurers who drop in from other settings. A group of adventurers apparently challenge Castle Ravenloft but is never heard from again (they got TPK'd by the original adventure). The Vistani arrive, and their leader Madam Eva makes a pact with Strahd that endures to this day (she's also apparently still around somehow). Martyn Pelkar, a young orphan, emerges from the woods claiming a luminous being saved him from the ravening beasts that killed his parents. Despite being dismissed as crazy, he ends up founding the Cult of the Morninglord. And finally, a wizard (actually a lich) named Azalin arrives and stays for decades in a tower near Lake Zarovich, trying to find a way out of the Mists working with Strahd.

547-587: the Expanding Stain
New Domains finally start to appear. First is Forlorn, an empty place to the south. Second is Arak to the north, containing actual towns and tales of evil fey. In 579, Mordent appears and with it the first coastline. The circumstances of how exactly Mordent got dragged into the Mists ar eunclear, but are somehow related to Azalin and Strahd being there in their quest to escape. This even isn't really explained, but I'm guessing it's another pre-made adventure. Afterward, the alliance between Azalin and Strahd is broken and the lich goes into the Mists and come out with his own domain: Darkon, a large (the largest) cosmopolitan country. Late in the 6th Century, a blasted wasteland called Bluetspur appears, with the few remaining half mad refugees resettling into Barovia, carrying tales of braing-stealing monsters. Deep in the Mists, a bunch of Island of Terrors show up, but won't matter for a long time.

568-699: Scourge and Expansion
A giant sandstorm, The Sourge of Arak, kills everything in that Domain. A bunch of new Domains show up, creating what is known as "The Core", Ravenloft's biggest cluster of Domains. The Dilisnya family get their own Domain, Borca, and one of them, Yakov Dilisnya, founds the Church of Ezra, one of the most powerful and widespread religions in Ravenloft. It's biggest rival, the Church of the Lawgiver, is established in Nova Vaasa (a Not-Holland domain). Finally, an Outlander named Vlad Drakov shows up, massacres a couples of villages in Darkon with his mercenaries and his promptly kicked out by Azalin.

700-734: Dead Man's campaign
A couple new Domains appear, including one for Vlad Drakov: Falkovnia. He decides he wants to be a warlord and so attempts to conquer Darkon. He fails, sending thousands of his citizens to the slaughter against Azalin's undead hordes. Meanwhile, a Darkonian Doctor, finding his family killed, vows vengeance against the forces of the night: Rudolph van Richten starts his career.

735-740: the Grand Conjunction
A bunch of separate adventures are haphazardly slapped together to attempt a storylineAzalin attempts to use a prophecy by the Vistani Seer Hyskosa to escape from Ravenloft, only to mess it all up at the end. The Realms are temporarily transported to Material Realm, where they bother other settings for a few seconds, and then snap back, redrawing the entire map. Domains merge, vanish, etc.

741-749: The Land Congeals
Things more or less settle into their current configuration. A few aftershocks of the Grand Conjunction bring in random changes, some Islands of Terrors merge into clusters, stuff like that. There's a bunch of societal changes we'll see more in-depth later. Learning nothing from his previous failures, Azalin starts a new plan to escape, with a new secret society he created harvesting souls from across the realms.

750-755: The Fall of Kings
Azalin completes his artifact powered by souls and attempts to use it to escape. It blows up instead in an event known as The Requiem. Azalin vanishes, his biggest city (Il Aluk) is turned into a city of undead, someone claiming to be Death takes over his kingdom, things are bad. Rudolph van Richten also vanishes, and the Dark Knight Soth is erased from continuity because his creators want him back in Dragonlance. Vlad Drakov thinks now is just the time to start a bloody invasion, but Azalin's hordes of undead show up anyway. His ghost is still around! Adventurers bring back the lich, because the dude might be evil and prone to cosmic gently caress-ups but he made the trains run on time, in an epic adventure that was never actually published. Death is trapped in his own Domain, Necropolis.

755: The Present
People speak of a prophecy of a Time of Unparalleled Darkness, but Azalin hasn't hosed it up into being yet.

For those who like random dates referencing tons of stuff that haven't yet been explained, the timeline of events follow:

Timeline posted:

1 The ancestors of Strahd von Zarovich found the Nation of Barovia.
320 The Tergs invade Barovia, conquering the von Zarovich ancestral lands.
321 Strahd von Zarovich leads the armies of Barovia in battle against the Tergs.
347 Strahd drives the last of the Terg warlords from Barovia, claiming the throne as his reward.
351 The wedding of Sergei von Zarovich and Tatyana turns into a massacre through Strahd's murderous rampage and the treachery of Leo Dilisnya. Barovia becomes a domain.
398 Strahd hunts down the traitorous Leo Dilisnya and condemns him to eternal torment.
400 Strahd encounters Tatyana's first reincarnation.
470 The Vistani appear in Ravenloft. Their leader, Madame Eva, forges an alliance with Count Strahd.
475 Earliest records of the Cult of the Morninglord.
528 Powerful heroes assault Castle Ravenloft and are killed.
542 Azalin enters Ravenloft, forming an uneasy alliance with Strahd.
547 Forlorn is drawn into the Mists.
551 The domains of Har'Akir and Paridon appear.
564 Sebua is formed.
575 Araak appears.
579 Mordent enters Ravenloft. Darkon appears.
581 Illithids spawn the domain of Bluetspur.
586 "Bloody Jack" strikes Paridon for the first time.
588 Keening appears. All surface life in Arak is scoured away.
590 Pharazia is formed.
593 Gundarak is formed.
600 Vechor appears.
603 Invidia takes shape under the rule of Bakholis.
607 Sanguinia is formed.
611 Shadowborn Manor enters Ravenloft.
613 Kartakass appears.
615 Nidala is formed.
620 Timor appears.
625 Valachan takes shape.
630 The Sea of Sorrows appears.
635 Souragne is formed. Graben appears.
646 Avonleigh appears in the Phantasmal Forest.
650 The Faith of the Overseer is founded in Darkon.
658 The Wildlands takes shape.
666 Yakov Dilisnya scribes the First Book of Ezra
670 Sri Raji is formed.
682 Nova Vaasa appears.
683 Lamordia is formed.
684 Borca appears.
688 The Crimson Death, a lethal plague, spreads across Darkon.
689 Vlad Drakov enters Ravenloft in Darkon.
690 Falkovnia appears.
691 Tepest takes shape,
694 Richemulot appears.
698 Markovia is formed. Camille Boritsi poisons most of her family.
699 Felix Wachter pens the Second Book of Ezra.
700 Drakov invades Darkon and is repelled.
702 G'Henna appears.
704 Drakov invades Darkon again and is repelled.
706 Dr. Rudolph van Richten vows to battle the forces of evil.
707 Dementlieu appears.
708 Arkandale appears.
709 Joan Secousse pens the Third Book of Ezra.
711 Camille Boritsi is murdered; her daughter Ivana inherits control of Borca. Drakov invades Darkon a third time and is repelled.
713 A shadowy crime lord known only as "the Brain" surfaces in Port-a-Lucine.
714 Hazlan takes shape.
715 Dorvinia appears.
720 Sithicus joins the Core.
722 Drakov invades Darkon once more and is repelled.
728 Saragoss is formed.
729 Othmar Bolshnik assumes the title of Prince of Nova Vaasa. Bakholis is killed by one of his captives, Gabrielle Aderre. A peasant uprising topples his regime.
730 Verbrek takes shape.
731 Vorostokov is formed.
734 Prince Othmar refuses to relinquish his title.
735 The Vistani seer Hyskosa records his Dire Prophecy predicting the Grand Conjunction. Van Richten publishes the first of his texts, the Guide to Vampires.
736 The first verse of Hyskosa's Hexad comes to pass. Duke Gundar, the lord of Gundarak, falls victim to clever heroes and a traitorous servant.
737 The second verse of Hyskosa's Hexad comes to pass.
738 Odiare enters Ravenloft. The third verse of Hyskosa's Hexad comes to pass.
739 The fourth verse of Hyskosa's Hexad comes to pass.
740 The Grand Conjunction rocks the Land of Mists to its foundations, reshaping the domains.
740 Rokushima Taiyoo appears. Saragoss, Sri Raji, and the Wildlands join together to form the Verdurous Lands. Tepestanis organize an inquisition against the fey in response to the formation of the Shadow Rift.
741 Hazlik builds the village of Ramulai to house a school of wizardry. Gennifer Weathermay Foxgrove is mauled by a wolf. Her uncle George shoulders the blame and leaves Mordent.
742 Dr. van Richten publishes the Guide to the Vistani and retires. "Bloody Jack" resurfaces in Paridon for his thirteenth killing spree.
743 The popular bard Harkon Lukas is elected Meistersinger of Skald. Thought destroyed in the Grand Conjunction, Markovia is rediscovered in the Sea of Sorrows.
744 Paridon and Timor merge to form the Zherisia cluster.
745 The demon Malistroi attempts to conquer G'Henna with a fiendish army.
746 Har'Akir, Pharazia, and Sebua join together to form the Amber Wastes cluster.
747 Malocchio Aderre, born to Gabrielle Aderre and a mysterious father, is revealed to be a Dukkar and seizes control of Invidia. Avonleigh,Nidala, and Shadowborn Manor form the Shadowlands cluster.
748 A Lamordian colony on Markovia vanishes without a trace.
749 The Grim Harvest begins as Azalin sends the Ebon Fold into surrounding lands to collect souls for a massive magical experiment. Sanguinia joins with Vorostokov to form the Frozen Reaches cluster.
750 Dr. Rudolph van Richten vanishes. Gennifer and Laurie Weathermay-Foxgrove vow to continue his work. A massive burst of negative energy now known as the Requiem transforms II Aluk into a city of the undead. Azalin is thought destroyed. The Mists reveal the Nocturnal Sea.
751 Teodorus Raines pens the Fourth Book of Ezra. Drakov invades Darkon once again, but the dead still rise to repel his forces. A prince of the shadow fey attempts to reopen a portal to the Plane of Shadow, nearly freeing a monstrous entity of immense power.
752 Azrael usurps control of Sithicus after his former master disappears in the Hour of Screaming Shadows.
753 The Weathermay-Foxgrove sisters print new editions of the Van Richten Guides. The former servants of Azalin begin to receive visions instructing them to aid in his return.
754 Gregor Zolnik kills his wife and mother in a mad rage. His sisters disappear.
755 Heroes restore Azalin to power, foiling a traitorous attempt to enslave his spirit. "Bloody Jack" expected to strike Paridon again.

Next: Geography!

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Mors Rattus posted:

I believe also surprisingly good writing.

Yeah. When I first got the book, I thought it was super awesome.

MonsieurChoc fucked around with this message at 00:20 on Feb 11, 2016

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Kavak posted:

Hold on, what?

Yep. From The Fraternity of Shadows (the biggest current Ravenloft fansite):

Fraternity of Shadows FAQ posted:

What is Death Undaunted? Will it ever be released?

Death Undaunted was to be the fourth and final Grim Harvest adventure, produced and published strictly online by the Kargatane and would detail Azalin’s resurrection and return to the throne. However, this product was delayed by the transition to D&D Third Edition rules which necessitated a complete re-write. Then the Kargatane, the official Ravenloft website at the time, lost the privilege of producing the first official 3rd edition RAVENLOFT products when the line was licensed to Arthaus and Swords & Sorcery. They were hired to write the next few published books for Arthaus. However, the Dark Powers decided on a different course then the one that was planned, and this product will likely never be finished let alone released. Hints at what could have been can be found in some current Ravenloft products. The Third Edition’s timeline notes that five years after his ‘death’: "Heroes restore Azalin to power, foiling a traitorous attempt to enslave his spirit." Further hints can be found in Ravenloft Gazetteer II.

John W. Mangrum, the primary author of the adventure, kindly shared his unfinished manuscript for Death Undaunted with us, which is available in the Library.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 3: Geography

Thanks to the nature of the Mists, it's impossible to get an accurate idea of Ravenloft's size. in fact, none of the maps included in the game have a scale. The biggest continent is commonly know as "The Core", but even then there are a theoretically limitless number of Domains out there in the Mists. Still, the known territory is smaller than most other campaign settings, some might call it claustrophobic.

The Core is the focus of most of the setting, and is the oldest and largest cluster. It seems to be at the heart of the Realm of Dread, with Barovia at it's center. In the North, the continent is dominated by Darkon, a large country where nonhumans are surprisingly frequent and magic is tolerated. Elsewhere, nonhumans are rarer and feared, much like magic. Two of Darkon's neighbor, Falkovnia and Tepest, are particularly hostile to nonhumans, with one treating them as slaves and the other targeting them in their Inquisition against the fey. A large bottomless crevice, known only as the Shadow Rift, separates the Core into two. In the Northwest, shipping, free trade and military alliances have led to something of an age of enlightenment, with high cultural and scientific levels. In the south, things are still quite rustic, with large forests, isolated villages, superstitious peasants and monsters stalking the night. Sithicus is the only major nonhuman realm in the Core, as it is predominantly elvish (it's the Dragonlance Domain). In the Southwest, byzantine politics and oppression of the lower classes abounds in Nova Vaasa and Hazlan. Finally, the Sea of Sorrows is filled with storms and hard to navigate, leading to much fewer ships strolling it's seas.

There are a few notables Clusters outside of the Core. The Amber Wastes are a harsh desert land full of empty tombs, sandworms and the like. The Frozen Reaches are large land of perpetual winter. The Shadowlands are slowly encroached by a phantasmal forest. The Verdurous Lands contain an immense jungle and the equally dangerous Sargasso sea. Zherisia is made up of a large city and it's seemingly infinite underworld of tunnels and sewers.

There are also Islands of Terrors, single Domains isolated in the Mists. Bluestpur is a scorched landscape where nothing humans can survive and only monsters dwell. G'Henna is an arid land where the population is slowly starved to death by the cult of an evil god. Odiare is a small city where only children live. Rokushima Taiyoo is a beautiful archipelago being torn apart by four brothers fighting for control of the land. Souragne is a swampland where the dead are forced to till the fields by the Lord of the Dead.

Cultural Levels is how Ravenloft deals with different Domains having different technological advancements. CL determines what is available to buy in these realms, as well as giving and idea of what society is like. It goes from 0 to 9. CL 0 is Savage, pure untamed wilderness. CL 1 is Stone Age, nomadic and semi-nomadic tribes or hunter-gatherers struggling to survive. Stone weapons are much more fragile and have a -1 penalty to hit and damage. CL 2 is Bronze Age, this is the beginning of society, with agriculture and early writing and giant stone monuments. Rulers are often clerics, sorcerers are the first spellcasters and the first magic items start to appear. Bronze Age weapons are more fragile (though no as much as Stone Age weapons) and take a -1 penalty to damage. CL 3 is Iron Age, with the discovery of more advanced metal-working, aqueducts, etc. CL 4 is Classical, with most advances being in the realms of mathematics and medicine. CL 5 is Dark Age, based on the (now outdated) view of how things were after the fall of the Roman Empire. Still advance sin agriculture continue, as well as warfare (crossbows, etc.) CL 6 is Early Medieval, with the first merchant guilds and Gothic architecture. CL 7 is Late Medieval, and is mentioned to be the default setting of 3E D&D. CL 8 is Chivalric, with the advent of the first awkward Gunpowder weapons. Finally, CL 9 is Renaissance, with more advanced firearms and the printing press and other scientific discoveries. Armor and large unwieldy weapons become less popular.

Then we close Chapter 1 with a lexicon:

Lexicon posted:

ancient dead: Also called "ancients"; a broader term for the undead creatures often called mummies.
bloodline: A chain of lycanthropic infection stemming from a single natural lycanthrope.
caliban: A human warped in the womb by unnatural magic.
cleric domain: A clarification to the term "domain" from the Player's Handbook to avoid confusion with Ravenloft's domains.
cluster: A patchwork collection of two or more domains in a single Mist-bound region.
Core, the: The largest and oldest cluster in Ravenloft, loosely resembling a microcosmic, Gothic Europe.
Cultural Level (CL): A rough measurement of a community's technological level. Affects equipment and skill availability.
darklord: The evil master — and ultimate prisoner — of a domain. A descriptive term, it is not used by characters in the setting.
Dark Powers: The faceless, godlike forces that shape the Realm of Dread. A descriptive term; their true nature and intentions remain a mystery.
domain: A pocket dimension created to imprison and torment a singular evil creature, its darklord. Domains often resemble Material Plane locations and may contain sizeable populations.
domain border: Darklords can close the borders of their domain, preventing escape. No mortal magic can overcome a closed domain border.
Dukkar: A legendary foe of the Vistani, said to be a male Vistana gifted with the Sight and fated to bring destruction to his people.
ethereal resonance: The landscape of the Near Ethereal, shaped by the echoes of emotionally charged events.
Fear save: A Will save vs. fear effects.fiend: Any powerful, evil outsider.
giogoto: The Vistani term for half-Vistani. Both singular and plural.
giorgio: The Vistani term for non-Vistani. Both singular and plural.
Grand Conjunction, the: An arcane term for a cataclysmic event in 740 that nearly destroyed and permanently reshaped the Land of Mists. It was foreseen by the Vistani seer Hyskosa. Within the setting this event is more commonly known as the Great Upheaval.
Grim Harvest, the: A murderous conspiracy forged to collect souls to power a grand and terrible magical experiment. Lasting from 748-750, it culminated in the Requiem.
Horror save: A Will save vs. horror effects.
Hour of Screaming Shadows, the: A terrifying night in the autumn of 752 when a mass of living shadows smashed into Nedragaard Keep in Sithicus, apparently killing the black knight who ruled it.
Innocence: The total absence of evil in a mortal spirit. Evil creatures are both drawn to and threatened by Innocence, like moths to a flame.
insane: Any creature suffering from a madness effect.
Island of Terror: A single domain, surrounded on all sides by the Mists.
Madness save: A Will save vs. madness effects.
Mists, the: As the Misty Border, these banks of unnatural fog separate clusters and Islands of Terror. The Mists can also appear at any place or time within Ravenloft. They are presumed to be the agents of the Dark Powers and can twist time and space.
Mistway: A relatively reliable travel route through the Mists.
Outcast Rating (OR): A modifier to social skills, reflecting the xenophobia of Ravenloft's denizens.
outlander: Anyone who comes from "beyond the Mists," perhaps even from another world.
Near Ethereal, the: The borderland between Ravenloft and the Ethereal Plane.
powers check: A percentile roll to determine whether the Dark Powers respond to evil acts.
rank: A measure of the power of ghosts, ethereal resonance, and the ancient dead. Not to be confused with skill ranks.
Ravenloft: A descriptive term for the setting. To characters within the Land of Mists, Ravenloft is just a castle in Barovia.
recovery check: A Will save made to recover from horror or madness effects. Failing the check incurs no further penalties.
Requiem, the: A catastrophic event in 750 in which an expanding wave of negative energy slew Il Aluk. Darkon's king was thought killed in the blast but has recently reemerged.
Scourge of Arak: A massive sandstorm in 588 that wiped out all surface life in the region now known as the Mountains of Misery in Darkon.
sinkhole of evil: A spiritually unclean area that applies penalties to Will saves and turning attempts. The effect of powerful ethereal resonance spawned by acts of evil.
Vistani: A mysterious, gypsylike people who roam the Land of Mists. They are feared and respected for their evil eye and power over the Mists. Vistani is plural; the singular form is Vistana.

Next, we'll start Chapter 2 and delve right into all the rules change they made.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I can barely afford toe at, but that bundle of Night's Black Agents + Dracula Dossier is soooo tempting.

I'm gonna do the responsible thing and wait until I can afford it, but goddamit it, it's frustrating.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 4: Races

Chapter 2 is all about the Player rules, covering the usual D&D fantasy races, classes, etc. First up are the races, with how the old ones are in Ravenlfot and a couple new ones. Each races gets an Homeland, Recommended Feats and a base OR. What's OR? It stands for Outcast Rating, a base penalty to social rolls because everyone in Ravenloft is somewhat xenophobic (you never know when the stranger visiting you is actually a monstrous doppelganger there to steal your soul).

The base languages are also different: Common doesn't exist in Ravenloft. Instead you get a dozen pastiche of real-world languages, and if their French (my first language, with English being the only other one I know) they're all L5R level of terrible. The more widespread ones are Balok (the not-Romanian of Barovia), Darkonese (the not-Latin of Darkon), Mordentish (not-french, despite Mordent being not-England), Vaasi (not-Swedish from Nova Vaasa) and Draconis (the language of magic, with almost no dragons actually living in Ravenloft). Strangely enough, Mordentish has both a High-version for nobles and a Low-version for commoners, with Low Mordentish kinda sounding flemish, so there's some Belgium influence there too.

Humans are their usual generic self. Their prevalence in Ravenloft might be due to their great capacity for Good or Evil, recognized by the Dark Powers. Their Homeland can be anywhere with settlements, their Recommended Feats will vary by Domains and they have a base OR of Zero.

Non-humans are a lot rarer than humans, and face mroe discrimination as a result, with many thinking them related to the Fey or vectors of Lycanthropy or other superstitions. Some (human) scholars have theorized that non-humans are facets of humanity, placed there by gods to reflect against humanity's light. Most non-humans scoff at this, as they know their cultural traits are not iron-clad and they possess free will too.

Replacing the Half-Orcs (Ravenloft has neither Orcs nor Dragons), Calibans are humans who were exposed to dangeorus magic or cursed before their birth, ending up deformed and ugly. The inspiration here is clearly Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest, son of the witch Sycorax. While all Calibans are different, they do tend to be big and brutish. They have the same stats as the Half-Orcs from the Player's Handbook.
Homeland: Calibans can come from anywher,e although they are more frequent in Domains with more magic, such as Darkon, Hazlan and Tepest.
Recommended Feats: Alertness, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Jaded, Lunatic, Run, Skill Focus (Intimidate, Wilderness Lore), Voice of Wrath.
Base OR: 5, quite the penalty.

Dwarves are pretty much how you expect them to be, a stout hard-working race dedicated to forge and family and feeling a deep kinship with the earth. Some humans have distorted this, believing that dwarves are actually elemental spirits. Many human folktales speak of dwarves who require a diet of gold and gems or who turn to stone if touched by sunlight.
Homelands: The center of dwarven culture is the town of Tempe Falls in Darkon, though nearby Corvia also hosts a sizeable dwarven population. Smaller dwarven communities have also spread south along the Balinoks and to other mountainous regions, such as the Sleeping Beast of Lamordia. In recent years, dwarven explorers have also been making inroads into the forsaken region of the Mountains of Misery once known as Arak. There they have been laboring to reopen the abandoned mines and a long-neglected trade route that once connected Tempe Falls to Liara in Nova Vaasa.
Recommended Feats: Back to the Wall, Courage, Craft Magic Arms and Armor, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Jaded, Skill Focus (Craft [armorsmithing, blacksmithing, stonemasonry, weaponsmithing]).
Base OR: 3, not as bad as the Caliban.

There are two distinct "tribe" of Elves in Ravenloft: the Elves of Darkon who tend to have dark hair and the Elves of Sithicus who all have silver hair and amber eyes. Elves are close to nature and live long lives, to the point where in Domains wher ethey are less frequent they are thought to be either nature spirits taking human form or Fey creatures. More than one elf has had their "immortality" tested by the Inquisitors of Tepest.
Homelands: There are three major Elvish cities in Darkon (Neblus, Nevuchar Springs and Sidnar) and Elves are the only non-humans races to have their own Domain, Sithicus. Some elves move in to human Domains and there are tales of Elves serving as advisers to entire Human Dynasties.
Recommended Feats: Alertness, Ethereal Empathy, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Wilderness Lore), Track, any metamagic or item creation feat.
Base OR: 3, same as the Dwarves.

Humans are less afraid of the tiny Gnomes, but are still wary of their eccentric personality. Not quite Tinker Gnomes, they still are a curious race fond of puzzles and mechanisms. They also apparently have a pretty macabre sense of humor.
Homelands: The largest Gnome settlement is the town of Mayvin in Darkon. Due to their specific skillset, most Domains have a small Gnome community of almost a 100, with Nova Vaasa having the largest due to the popularity of having a Gnome court jester.
Recommended Feats: Alertness, Craft Wand, Craft Wondrous Item, Dodge, Open Mind, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Bluff, Craft [alchemy, clockmaking, gunsmithing, locksmithing]).
Base OR: 2.

Half-Elves (fey-born)
Half-Elves are rare, and outsiders pretty much everywhere. Some consider them cursed by their heritage, outliving their human friends but dying of old age before their elvish ones. Many channel their feelings into the arts, where being an outsider is pretty normal. A few even reject their given names, adopting dramatic titles like the Wind Haunter or the Deathseeker (Player Characters if I ever heard of one).
Homelands: Half-elves don't have an actual community, but are more frequent in areas neighboring Elf settlements (Sithicus or Darkon).
Recommended Feats: Alertness, Iron Will, Jaded, Redhead, Run, Track, Skill Focus (Diplomacy, Disguise, Perform).
Base OR: Almost, but not-quite, human.

Halflings often look like human children, and as such are feared by no one and welcome in most places. Some human bards claim that halflings were created when a powerful hag tried to purify a human as an experiment, driving all the evil from his body. The experiment was a success, but the victim was reduced to half his former size, the "evil half vanishing to none-knows-where. Halflings pay this legend very little mind.
Homelands: Most halflings are nomadic, wandering from Domain to Domain in clans. They stay a few years before moving on, to experience all it has to offer before moving on. There are two permanent halfling communities, both in Darkon: the Haflings of Rivalis raise goats, produce cheese and take pride in their flower gardens, while the inhabitants of Delagia mostly subsist through fishing. For those who hate Kenders:


Tales are told of a village of halflings hidden somewhere in the forests of Sithicus. These halflings were hideously tortured by the black knight who previously ruled that land, however. They are now said to be insane, feral creatures.
Recommended Feats: Courage, Dodge, Mobility, Open Mind, Skill Focus (Diplomacy, Tumble), Weapon Finesse.
Base OR: 1, like Half-Elves.

New "Race": Half-Vistani
Yeah, apparently being half magic Gypsie is a thing. They're the result of a "torrid love affair" between a Vistani and a non-Vistani, and can be raise dby either parent but will never really fit in They've got different racial traits than other humans, despite being completely human.
They get +2 to Wisdom and -2 to Charisma.
They're Medium-sized.
Their Base Speed is 30 feet.
They have a +2 to Wilderness Lore, +4 if it's to start a fire (what the poo poo what kind of bad bonus is that?)
Moon Madness: A giogoto suffers from the lunatio during the full moon each month, her mind clouded by restlessness and anxiety. She cannot prepare spells or heal naturally during this period. On each of the three nights of the full moon, she must succeed at a Will save (DC 15) or run wild under the night sky. (What the gently caress!!?)
Base OR: 2, but can be lowered by a successful Disguise Check (holy poo poo, humans with Gypsy blood have bigger penalties than Half-Elves and Halflings)
Base Languages are like any other humans, except they can learn the Vistnai patterna.
Recommended Feats: Alertness, Ethereal Empathy, Lunatic, Track, Voice of Wrath.
Tribal Heritage: The Vistani tribe of the parent determines favored class and an additional bonus.


Canjar: +2 racial bonus on Spellcraft checks. This bonus rises to +4 when attempting to learn new spells. Favored Class: Wizard.
Corvara: +2 racial bonus on Open Lock and Sense Motive checks. Favored Class: Rogue.
Equaar: +2 racial bonus on Handle Animal and Ride checks. Favored Class: Ranger.
Kamii: +2 racial bonus on any metal-based Craft checks (e.g., blacksmithing) With a successful Appraise check, Kamii can identify metals and determine where any metal item originated. Favored Class: Rogue.
Naiat: +2 racial bonus on Perform checks. Naiat have a base Outcast Rating of 0. Favored Class: Bard.
Vatmska: +2 racial bonus on Heal and Profession (herbalism) checks. Favored Class: Cleric.
Zarovan: Racial bonus of (1d10-1d4) to initiative. Roll at the start of each encounter. Favored Class: Sorcerer.


Wow. This is way worse than I remember. Setting aside the racism of making Half-Gypsy a loving race option, it's a terrible one mechanically! None of those tiny bonuses are worth giving up the bonus feat and skill points of being human! Even the one that gives a bonus to Initiative is super random and can actually give you a negative one!

Erm, anyway. Next time, we'll cover the changes made to the Character Classes.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
Goddammit White Wolf, why must you make me liking you so terrible? :smith:

Edit: Although, thinking about it, they're just updating stuff from the previous editions there, so I can instead blame TSR.

I mean, this D&D, everybody got magic. Why couldn't the Vistani just be a Roma-inspired cultural group of humans? Why the need to go full WoD: Gypsies?

MonsieurChoc fucked around with this message at 18:14 on Feb 12, 2016

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
The book mentions multiple times that the Vistani are humans. They just have entirely different rules from humans because *reasons*.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I approve of Halfling BB Hood.

I realize I forgot to cover Chapter 2's intro fiction, so I'll do it here. This time, it's a letter from Gennifer Weathermay-Foxgrove to her Uncle George, informing him of the work she and her twin Laurie have been doing trying to continue Doctor van Richten's work after his mysterious disappearance. This introduces some of my favorite NPCs, and we'll get the whole story about Rudolph Van Richten and the Weathermay family eventually, but the gist of it is that Van Richten and George Weathermay are accomplished monster hunters and that the Weathermay-Foxgrove tins idolizes them and want to follow in their footsteps. The first thing they did was start reprinting Van Richten's old Guides and started working on some new ones. See, the reason Van Richten is feared among monsters and revered among heroes isn't that he's an amazing monster hunter (though he was certainly a good one), but that he published and spread books full of monsters weaknesses and powers, giving the world at large useful tools to fight back. I love that concept.

Anyway, onward to Part 5: Classes

Barbarians mostly come from small communities or tribes, such as the frozen land of Vorostokov or the tiny hamlets of Verbrek. They usually serve as warrior, hunters and protectors. They value strength, eschew "dirty tricks" and are usually very superstitious (the Voros of Vorostokov are mentioned as believing all writing inherently contain evil magics). The people from more "enlightened" regions tend to view them with disdain at best.
Altered Class Features:
They only they get is a +4 bonus against Fear, Horror and Madness checks when in Rage, and only when Raging. Woo.

Bards tend to come from more civilized lands, wher etravel is easier and audience are more receptive to tales of other lands (true or not). Most bards aspire to study at the famed bardic colleges of Kartakass. For a bard, little in life yields more prestige than to be admitted to the Harmonic Hall or to perform in Harmonia's amphitheater. Kartakass, as you may guess, is Bardland.
Altered Class Features:
Some spell are changed (expect all spellcasting classes to get that one)
They get a +10 to Bardic knowledge DC when in an unfamiliar domain. This penalty is lowered by -1 for each month they spend there. Starting characters get number of Domains equal to their level with no penalty (so lvl 1 Bard get their home Domain and nothing else). You don't get to pick one more Domain when you level up.
There's an optional rule for Evil Bards to be able to cause Fear checks in their audience if they succeed by more than 10 on their Perform check.

There's plenty of new religions in Ravenloft, as well as slightly different takes on old ones (The Morninglord is a slightly different take on Lathander from Forgotten Realms, the Lawgiver is Bane, etc.), but they're covered in the Religion section of the chapter. Clerics are really important and are usually well received.
Altered Classe Features:
Some spells are changed.
If they want, evil clerics of nonevil deities can opt to channel spell energy into cure spells in the same manner as neutral clerics of neutral gods. This choice still determines whether the cleric turns or commands undead.
All undead creatures in Ravenloft have +1 Turning Resistance (if they had none, they now have +1). This bonus stacks with that of Sinkhole of Evils (explained way later in the book).
Undead Darklords get either +1 or their Wisdom modifier as a bonus to their Turning Resistance, whichever is higher.
Also, normally undead are instantly destroyed when turned by a cleric with double or more their HD in levels, but in Ravenloft this occurs only when they cannot escape (either restrained or cornered).

According to tradition, the first Druids in Ravenloft arrived with the Domain of Forlorn, but have since spread throughout. Druids are still all about balance and preserving nature, except since Ravenloft is so out of balance you'll find a lot of Druids fighting to destroy these "sinkhole of evil" and restore balance.
Altered Class Features
They forget to put the "some Spells are different" thing here, but trust me, some spells will have changed.
Animal companions can be hijacked by Darklords (joy!), but they can never be made to attack their Master or his companions. When ordered to, they'll usually run away from the conflicting loyalties, returning only when leaving the Domain.
Woodland Stride can't be used to cross closed Domain borders.
Trackless Step still leaves a smell trail.
Venom Immunity does not protect against closed Domain borders.

Fighters are fighty dudes from wherever. They try to make them look cool, but it's the Fighter.
Altered Class Features:
Fighters GET NOTHING!!!
Ok, ok, not quite true. They get a few new Feats added to their list: Back to the Wall, Courage, Dead Man Walking, and Jaded.

There are few Monk traditions in Ravenloft. They exist in the wonderful land of NotJapan (Rokushima Taiyoo) and in NotIndia (Sri raji, where they are called fakirs). The Monk tradition also exists in Paridon, where it merged with occult lodges to create the "theological philosophy" they call the Divinity of Mankind. Those sound kind of cool, too bad we never got a Paridon book! (All you get is an old 2E adventure and a fanmade pdf)
Altered Class Features:
Diamond Body and Abundant Step can't help cross closed Domain borders.
Empty Body only allows access to the Near Ethereal Realm.
Perfect Self is weird, so I'm just going to re-transcript: If the monk has a good or evil moral alignment, she develops a reality wrinkle with an initial radius of 1,000 feet per level. If the monk fails any power checks, consider them failed power rituals; each failed check adds 1d4 corruption points to the monk's total and halves the wrinkle's radius. See "Fiends" in chapter 5 for more details.
So basically, Monks eventually get so Enlightened that reality warps around them.

Paladins in Ravenloft are a BIG loving DEAL. They're not just some magic knights, they're the Chosen Ones, destined to face the creatures of Evil with divine might of justice. They appear to not fit within the world created by the Dark Powers, and in some ways the deck seems stacked against them.
Altered Class Features:
Detect Evil works like Detect Chaos instead, thanks to the Dark Powers clouding powers that detect moral alignments, but there are two exceptions: Paladins can detect Innocents (to be explained later) and they can detect Evil Outsiders.
Divine Grace is slightly stronger, adding the bonus to any social roll to influence a Good NPC (effectively adding Charisma twice), but becomes a penalty when interacting with Evil NPCs.
Divine Health doe snot protect against Curses or Darklords.
Aura of Courage does not protect against Fear checks, only Magical Fear effects.
Turn Undead works like with Clerics.
Did you know that some spells are changed!?
Paladin's mounts are replaced with a Dread Companion.
Paladin can be detected by Darklords who succeed at a Scry check (DC 25 - Paladin level), as they disrupt the natural order of things in Ravenloft.

What's a Dread Companion? It's a template automatically added to any Paladin mount or Arcane Familiar summoned in Ravenloft (but not animal companions): they become Evil Magical Beasts (so if a Lawful Good Paladin summoned a mount, it would instead be Lawful Evil) but still fiercely loyal to their Masters. So look forward to your horse brutally murdering that rear end in a top hat tax collector when your Paladin's back is turned, I guess.

Not much to say: like Barbarians and Druids, they mostly stay in the wilderness. They're respected as guarding the frontiers between settlements and the dark places.
Altered Class Feaures:
Just spells.

Rogue are expanded a bit: they're not just thieves and tricksters, but investigators and explorers. Rudolph Van Richten back in 2E was, IIRC, a 9th-level Rogue.
Altered Class Features:
They really do get nothing.

Sorcerers are freaks who are naturally gifted at magic. People fear them, thinking that they're either Fey Changelings or that they gained their powers through a pact with a Fiend or something equally superstitious. Vistani women are often sorcerers, with mostly divination and enchantment spells. Vistani men sorcerers are killed as soon as they exhibit powers, lest they become a Dukkar, a cursed being who will cause great harm (there are two major Dukkar characters in the setting, one of them being the Seer Hyskosa).
Altered Class Features:
Some spells are different.
A Familiar is a Dread Companion.

There are a few domains where Wizards are accepted and trained (Darkon and Hazlan are major ones), but most other places fear Wizards because they're assholes who have a tendency to go crazy with their own powers and become supervillains. So not that different from normal D&D Wizards (insert that "No notions of right and wrong" comic here).
Altered Class Features:
Some spells are different.
A Familiar is a Dread Companion.
(I copy-pasted from Sorcerer, can you tell?)

Next time, we'll go over Skills and Feats.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Bieeardo posted:

Unless things have changed dramatically, Outsiders should be strikingly rare. Makes that one power rather narrow in its application.

Yeah, it is a debuff. Still, when a shapeshifted demon tries to sneak up on you, you'll know it instantly!

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Part 6: Skills and Feats
A few skills work differently in Ravenloft, and we get an entire new skill to boot!
Alchemy can be used to make gunpowder (DC 15) for 5 silver pieces and ounce. You can make a huge batch at once (DC 20), but if you fail your check by more than 5 it explodes.
Animal Empathy: When under the influence of a Darklord, the Darklord's Charisma bonus is added to the DC.
Bluff can be used for Fortune-Telling or Seduction, as well as it's usual uses from the base game. They're basically just different sorts of lies.
Craft gets two new specializations: clockmaking and gunsmithing. If you have 5 ranks or more of Craft: Clockmaking, you get a +2 bonus when dealing with wheel-lock firearms.
Knowledge gets three new fields of study: Monster Lore (each type of monster is a specific subskill), Ravenloft (a specialized for of Knowledge: Planes dedicated to Ravenloft, only held by Darklords and a few scholars) and Lore skills, which are basically folklore.
The new skill is Hypnosis, it uses Charisma and is trained only. It's a weaker version of the hypnosis spell.

And that's it for Skills Onward to Feats!

Back to the Wall
When cornered, you fight harder! It requires a BAB of +2, and gives a +2 to AC and Attack Rolls when at a quarter of less of Max HP.

Cold One
You're cold. Can only be taken when you've had at least one level drained from you. Undead tend to think you're one of them (intelligent ones can make a DC 13 Wisdom roll to notice) and you die slower when under 0 hp, but heal naturally slower.

A straight +4 bonus to Fear saves. No pre-requisites.

Dead man Walking
You accept that you're doomed and are living on borrowed time. You need to have failed at least one Horror check or been reduced to -1 HP to take this feat. After the first Fear or Horror save, you receive a +2 bonus to all saves and skill checks for the rest of the encounter. You just go "Yep, time to die."

Ethereal Empathy
You can sense the emotions imbued within an ethereal resonance (stuff like ghosts or the sinkholes of evil that keep getting mentionned). You need to have at least 13 Wisdom to take it. The stronger the emotion, the easer the check from DC 20 down to 0 depending on the case).

You can see ghosts and other creatures that live on the Ethereal plane. They can see you too, though. Only characters that have been under 0 HP or have died and been brought back can take this.

The ghost of someone close to you is following you to help (mostly through spotting stuff you missed). The pre-requisite is, obviously enoguh, that someone close to your character has died.

Same as Courage, but for Horror saves.

You are affected by the moon, kinda like the Vistani (:rolleyes:). Only Chaotic characters can take this. It's a variable bonus to stuff (+1 when the moon is gibbous, +2 during the Full moon, -2 during the New Moon), inverted for Will saves. Seems pointless to me.

Open Mind
Same as Jaded and Courage, but for Madness checks.

Folklore says redheads are touched by the fey. Somehow this gives you magic powers. Requires red hair and a Wisdom stat of 11+. Gives you one lvl-1 and two lvl-0 Druid spells. Can only be taken at character creation.

You have some vague memories of your past life. You have one more class skill (your choice) and gain a +2 bonus to Charisma checks with a specific person in the world (your "soulmate"). Can only be taken at character creation.

Voice of Wrath
You gain a +4 bonus when trying to curse people. Since this is usually when you get unfairly murdered, I fail to see the usefulness.

In fact, a lot of these Feats are extremely situational. Same with Skills.

One last thing, a sidebar addresses the Leadership feat and how it is changed by Ravenloft: the one-step-away restriction on alignments applies only to Ethical (Law/Chaos) Alignment and not to Moral (Good/Evil).

And that's it, a relatively small and boring update. Next, we'll go over Religions, a much better subject!

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I can't remember, do they go over Zoroastrianism at some point?

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Religion (and the rest of Chapter 2)

Religion in Ravenloft doesn't work quite like it does in other Campaign Settings (only Eberron has a similar setup). Instead of one pantheon that objectively exists that directly talks to it's priests and all gods belong to it, you've got a whole bunch of religions that don't really work together or even like each other. In fact, Clerics from other worlds instantly feel a void where the voice of her God used to be, the connection severed instantly. And yet, the powers remain. Ravenloft natives are used to the Gods being remote and inscrutable, and regard it as a matter of common sense. In fact, many religions in Ravenloft have drifted considerably from their original tenets, but still retain their powers. Some theologians aware of these facts have come up with a theory of an "unspoken pacy", with the Gods of the multiverse agreeing not to directly interfere in the affairs of Ravenloft with the Dark Powers agreeing to do the same in return (that is, not interfere with the Gods). Another, more extreme theory holds that the Dark Powers have cut off Ravenloft from the Gods completely, and when someone prays in Ravenloft it is the Dark Powers that hears them. Some madmen and heretics even go so far as to say that many Gods have long since died, or never existed in the first place.

(Please forgive the crappy jpegs)
The Akiri Pantheon
Basically, the Hollywood Egyptian Gods. This religion is mostly popular in the Amber Wastes cluster: in Har'akir the Old Gods are still worshiped openly while in Pharizia (the other Domain of the cluster) the "angelic despot" Diamabel persecutes worshipers, attempting to replace it with worship of himself. The three major gods are the Ra, the sun disc, father and king of the Gods, Osiris, who was killed by his brother and now rules the underworld and Set, god of deceit and the destructive power of nature, who killed his brother Osiris out of jealousy. Clerics of Ra often serve as Viziers and community leaders, clerics of Osiris prepare corpses and "guard the sanctity of death" (hunt undead, I guess?) and clerics of Set often pose a clerics of other deities to subvert the faithful.
Ra is Lawful Good; has the domains of Air, Good, Law and Sun; and his favored weapon is the Falchion.
Osiris is Neutral Good; has the domains of Good, Protection, Repose (explained below) and Water; and his favored weapon is the light flail.
Set is Lawful Evil; has the domains of Death, Evil and trickery; and his favored weapon is the short sword.

The Repose Domain
is a new Cleric Domain in Ravenloft. It's all about helping the dead rest. It's granted by Osiris and the Eternal Order (to follow). The Domain's granted power permits the cleric to grant a resistance against turning into an undead to the dead (a will save using the cleric's will save bonus). The Domain spell list is:
1 Detect Undead. Reveals undead within 60 feet.
2 Gentle Repose. Preserves one corpse.
3 Speak with Dead. Corpse answers one question/two levels.
4 Halt Undead. Immobilizes undead for one round/level.
5 Raise Dead. Restores life to subject who died up to one day/level ago.
6 Antilife Shell. 10-foot field hedges out living creatures.
7 Resurrection. Fully restore dead subject.
8 Control Undead. Undead don't attack you while under your command.
9 Soul Bind. Traps newly dead soul to prevent resurrection.
It feels a lot more like it's meant for NPCs than PCs, especially the granted power.

In other worlds, Belenus is just another member of a pantheon of Celtic gods. But he's big in JapanRavenloft. He a central god in two different regions: Tepest and the Shadowlands cluster. Despite being pretty different, both branches have developed the same troubling trait: intolerance. Belenus is another Sun God. In Tepest, he's part of a rustic religion and his clerics also worship the rest of his pantheon. After the Grand Conjunction, a man named Wyan organized an Inquisition against the Fey, believing themr esponsible for the disappearance of the neighboring Domains of Markovia and G'Henna. The Inquisition has gotten over-zealous, leading to many half-elves, elves and sorcerers being labeled "fey" and killed. In Nidala, however, Belenus is the "One True God" of a matriarchal priesthood who ruthlessly persecut all other religions and obey their "holy protector" Elena Faith-Hold.
Belenus is Neutral Good; has the domains of Fire, Good and Sun; and his favored weapon is the sickle.

The Eternal Order
A fake religion created by Azalin Rex as a tool of societal control, The Eternal Order believes that their land originally belonged to the Dead and was stolen by the living, banishing the Dead to the Gray Realm. The clerics worship a pantheon of death gods borrowed from other religions. Worship focuses on rituals intended to appease the Dead and delay the Hour of Ascension, when the Dead shall reclaim the land. When the Requiem occurred, the clerics of the Order blamed the population for being too weak in their faith, which had the unintended effect of Darkonians abandoning the Church in drove. The Religion is now dying fast.
The Eternal Order are Neutral Evil; have the domains of Death, Evil, Knowledge and Repose; and their favored weapon is the Scythe.

The church of Ezra was founded 90 years ago when a descendant of the Dilisnya family claimed that a divine entity, Ezra, our Guardian in the Mists, had given him a revelation. Ezra supposedly was a virtuous mortal woman who, despairing of the evils of the world, forever surrendered her mortality to the Mists to become an eternal guardian of mankind. The original Lawful Neutral sect, centered on Borca, is called the Home Faith and appoints Ezra's clerics, called anchorites, to the task of protecting and healing her faithful. The Lawful Good sect in Mordent also teaches that they must convert as many people as possible for their own good. The Neutral sect in Dementlieu is more mystical, claiming that Ezra abandoned her callous fellow gods to help humanity. The Lawful Evil sect in Nevuchar Springs believes that a Time of Unparalleled Darkness is coming where all the unfaithful will be destroyed. All four sects agree that Ezra cannot protect those who do not believe in her.
Ezra is Lawful Neutral (usually); her domains are Mists, Destruction, Healing, Law and Protection; and her favored weapon is the longsword.

The Mists Domain
is exclusive to Clerics of Ezra, reflecting their patron deity's close relationship with the Mists. The granted power, the SHield of Ezra, has different effects depending on which sect the cleric is from: Lawful good: 25/+5 damage reduction vs. metal weapons, Lawful neutral: 15/+1 damage reduction vs. all physical attacks, Neutral: +10 to all Fortitude and Reflex saves vs. damaging spells and Lawful evil: +10 to all Will saves vs. mind-affecting spells and effects.
1 Obscuring Mist. Fog surrounds you.
2 Fog Cloud. Fog obscures vision.
3 Gaseous Form. Subject becomes insubstantial and can fly slowly.
4 Solid Fog. Blocks vision and slows movement.
5 Mind Fog. Subjects in fog suffer -10 Wis, Will checks.
6 Wind Walk. You and your allies turn vaporous and travel quickly.
7 Teleport without Error. Mists instantly transport you anywhere, with no off-target arrival.
8 Vanish. Mists instantly transport a touched object.
9 Imprisonment. Traps subject within the Mists.
I feel that it's a pretty strong domain overall.

According to her holy book Tales of the Ages, nine gods created the world and then left intending to leave mortals to do what they will, and only Hala returned, taking pity on them. She gathered together thirteen women and taught them the magic of the Weave, a form of magic that is also called witchcraft. The Church of Hala is secretive and highly mystical. Her clerics, who call themselves Witches, operate a number of hospices throughout Ravenloft, many of them in secret due to how often people fear them.
Hala is Neutral; has the domains Healing, Magic and Plant; and her favored weapon is the Dagger.

The Lawgiver
Also known as the Iron Tyrant and the Black Lord, his clerics claim the revelation of his true name would strike a mortal dead. This religion is all about blind obedience to authority: the rich and powerful deserve it due to their birth, and the low must obey. It is the state religion of Hazlan and Nova Vaasa. The Lawgiver fell silent during the Grand
Conjunction. His clerics either believe this was a test of their faith or that he was wounded and has now recovered. A few heretics believe the God might be dead, and the church now worships only empty titles.
The Lawgiver is Lawful Evil; has the domains of Death, Evil, Law and War; and his favored weapon is the Whip.

The Morninglord
Founded in the late fifth century by an orphan who claimed he had been saved by the Morninglord, the church portrays it's god as a luminous sylvan humanoid, his face smeared with blood. This strange detail is most often interpreted as saying even the best people have some darkness int hem, and even the most vile have some good that can be reached. Carrying a message of hope, the religion has started to spread among the oppressed Gundarakites of Barovia. No matter how bleak the future may seem, no matter how dark the night, the dawn will come. One of the cult's founders was also a vampire hunter, and it is possible the cult has continued this tradition in secret.
The Morninglord is Chaotic Good; has the domains of Good, Luck, Protection and Sun; and his favored weapon is the Halfspear.

Sidenote: The Morninglord's my favorite. Who doesn't want to smite vampires while screaming "I AM THE MORNING SUN, COME TO VANQUISH THIS HORRIBLE NIGHT!"

The Rajian Pantheon
The people of Sri Raji worship an extremely huge and complex pantheon of gods that outsiders have difficulty understanding. Their belief centers on an endless cycle of reincarnation that can be escaped only through perfect spiritual understanding and enlightenment. Two gods are of note: Kali, the Dark Mother who destroys and recreates the world and Tvashtri, an enlightened god of industry and invention. The University of Tvashtri is one of the greatest (if remote) in Ravenloft.
Kali is Chaotic Evil; has the domains of Destruction, Evil, Healing and Trickery; her favored weapon is the Sap.
Tvashtri is Chaotic Good; has the domains of Chaos, Knowledge, Magic and Plant; his favored weapon is the Punching Dagger.

The Wolf God
The Wolf God is worshipped by evil Werewolves, who see all other creatures (including humans) as abominations to be slain or herds to be thinned. Their rites are quite bloody.
The Wolf God is Chaotic Evil; his domains are Animal, Strength and Trickery; and he has no favored weapons (gotta use our claws).

Zhakata is not worshiped: he is appeased. Zhakata exists in two aspects: the Devourer and the Provider. G'Hena has known only the Devourer. The Devourer is a god of cruel austerity, all crops are donated to the priests who will take the god's share and then dole out the remaining in meagre portions to the starving peasants. Buying or selling food is a crime, obesity is sacrilege. Supposedly, one day Zhakata will be appeased and become the Provider, bringing an era of plenty. Generations have starved to death waiting for that day.
Zhakata is Lawful Evil; has the domains of Destruction, Earth, Fire and Protection; and his favored weapon is the Flail.

And that's it for religions!

Next we have a short Equipment section. When trying to buy outside of an objects CL (exemple: buying a musket in a CL6 Domain when the object is CL8+), you multiply the object's price by the difference and then add it (in the example, a difference of 2 means the musket costs +200% more GP). We don't get a lot of new stuff, firearms are alright (1d10 for pistols, 1d12 for muskets), the only interesting thing is that you can apparently buy simple automatons, crafted by the gnomes of Mayvin. There is a small sidebar comparing various peasant tools to weapons, to get that pitchfork mob feel going on.

We end the chapter with a small Finishing touches section, which states that to get a more fully-rounded characters you might want to answer a few questions, such as what scares him the most, what he loves the most, etc.

And that's it for Chapter 2. Next, in Chapter 3, we get yet more rules and a poo poo-ton of modified spells! :suicide:

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Traveller posted:

There is at least one were-badger darklord.

And isn't the Lawgiver a god from another D&D setting that got its name changed?

Yep, he's Bane from Forgotten Realms, much like the Morninglord is Lathander from the same setting.

Also, the were-badger isn't actually a Darklord, he just really wants to be one.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

The Ways of the World

Chapter 3 starts with another piece of introductory fiction, this time introducing to Alanik Ray, Ravenloft's Sherlock Holme's analogue, nd his companion and biographer doctor Arthur Sedgewick. We see him solve a murder in one page, a particularly easy one, but still ti'S the thought that counts.

If Chapter 2 was all about the change to the Players rules, then Chapter 3 is all about the global rule changes (with the antagonist-only rules left for later). This of cours einvolves a lot of magic changes, but some interesting stuff as well. This time around I'll cover Fear, Horror and Madness checks.

Fear, Horror and Madness saves
Following in the tradition of Call of Cthulhu, heroes in Ravenloft can be terrified or even driven mad by what they see and experience. Fear, horror, and madness checks function like Will saves: anything that modifies a Will save modifies them too, unless noted otherwise. Luck and Resistance bonus do not help with these saves (Cloak of Resistance does not make you less scared). Divine effects do help, though. If the character meets the DC, it is unaffected and immune to that effect for 24 hours. If you fail, the effect depends on your margin of failure: up to 5 less than the DC is Minor, 6 to 10 is Moderate, 11 to 15 is Major and 16+ gives a Major effect with additional effects. A recovery check can be made to remove the effects, and it's possible to Take 10 on these checks.

Fear saves should be made when facing overwhelming odds or immediate danger (badly outnumbered or outclassed, half the party is down, a menacing creature is immune to the group's attack, a menacing creature is huge, a menacing creature has a special fear ability, the character is helpless or threatened with immediate death). The DC is usually the encounters CR +8 (with some + and - circumstantial modifiers to the roll, such as being alone (-1) or a loved being in danger (+4) ). Bad effects are fairly straightforward: minor failure is Shaken (-2 morale penalty to attack rolls, checks and saves), moderate is Frightened (must flee at all cost) and Major is Panicked (must flee AND penalty of -2 to saves). More than that and a Horror check must be mad ein addition to the Panicked effect. Fear effects last 5d6 rounds, and some spell might remove them.

Horror saves should be made when beholding scenes of unspeakable cruelty or things that should not be (such as seeing someone torn limb from limb, watching a friend transform into a hideous monster, or learning that you slew an innocent bystander while possessed by an evil spirit). Since every Horror save is a unique situation, guidelines are given to detemrine the Save DC (5 for signs of violence, 10 for a scene of pain or suffering, 15 for a scene of terrible agony, 20 for a scene of evil, cruelty and madness and 25 for a malign paradigm shift). A malign paradigm shift is a moment where the characters realizes an element of the surroundings has been terribly wrong all along, such as realizing the party are the only people in the inn who aren't evil shapeshifters. Once again circumstance modifiers apply to the check (being of good alignment gives you a free +1, while evil is an automatic -1!). To determine the effect of a failure, 1d4 is rolled to select one of four categories for the failure level.
Minor effects include Aversion (automatically shaken when within 50ft of the area where the save was failed), Fearstruck (just like a Panicked result on a Fear save), Frozen (can take no actions for 3 rounds and flatfooted) and Nausea (the character become sphysically ill, losing 1d4+1 points of constitution that recover at the rate of 1 per hour and can only take partial actions for an equal number of rounds).
Moderate effects are Nightmares (character can longer get a night's rest, waking up from terrible nightmares after 5d6 minutes, elves are immune to this one and must re-roll the d4), Obsession (characters becomes obsessed with the event, garnering cumulative penalties to search, listen and spot checks up to -4 and eventually constitution damage), Rage (enters a Rage like the Barbarian's, except uncontrolled) and Revulsion (like Aversion, except anything that reminds the character of the event triggers it).
Major effects are Fascination (character tries to become the object of his fear, losing 1 point of Charisma and Wisdom until reaching 3 in both, at which point he becomes a Lost One), Haunted (like Obsessions, but with an additional loss of 1d6+1 points of Charisma), Mental Shock (character completely shuts down until succeeding at another save, rolled every 3 rounds) and System Shock (must make an immediate Fortitude check at same DC or lose 3d6 points of Constitution).
As you can see these effect range from dangerous to "roll a new character".
You can only suffer from one Horror effect at a time, and recovery checks can be made (after one week for minor, two for moderate and three for major), with a cumulative -2 to the DC every attempt.

Madness saves should be made when making mental contact with an inhuman mind (darklord, aberration, elemental, ooze, outsider, plant(except if your a druid or cleric of nature), insects), victim of "gaslighting" (purposeful attempt to make someone go insane) or suffering a total catastrophe (sole survivor of a TPK). Much like Horror, the DC are highly variable and given some basic guidelines (such as half the creatures's hit dice +10 for mental contact), and ther are 4 categories randomly determined by a D4 for each severity of Madness effect. Ever Madness effect also incurs loss of Intelligence, Charisma and Wisdom, rolled separetly (1d6, recover one per hour for Minor; 1d6, no easy recovery for Moderate and 1d10, no easy recovery for Major). Effects last until the Ability scores are fully recovered.
Minor Effects are Blackout (remember nothing from the moment the save was failed to the moment of recovery), Denial (refuse to acknowledge the existence of what caused the check), Horrified (Moderate Horror effect) and unhinged (randomly changes alignment using 1d8, omitting the original).
Moderate effects are Delusions (character believes something that isn't true, for instance that they posses the ability to fly or are a major NPC of the setting), Depression (must make a Will save (same DC0 tot ake any major action), Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't there) and Paranoia (believing in a massive conspiracy against them).
Major effects are Amnesia (loses multiple months of memories, gain a random D% of negative levels to reflect this), Multiple Personalities (personality splinters into one core, 1d10 fragments and 2d10 alter egos, and then you roll on tables to create each personality), Schizophrenia (must make another will save every time a will save is made to not randomly change alignment) and Suicidal (same as Depression, and if another Fear/Horror/Madness check is failed the character will attempt to take their life within the hour).
I don't know about you, but pretty much every effect seems like the character is completely hosed.
To recover from Moderate or Major effects, the character must rest for months. Hypnotism, therapy and Magic can help lessen that time.

Next, I'll cover Curses and Powers Check.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

Curse and Powers Check

Curses are a staple of the Gothic and Horror genres, and as such are present in Ravenloft. When someone is wronged, a terrible crime is comitted, te victim's cries of anger and hate will sometimes be heard by the Dark Powers... and answered. There are three types of Curses: the usual D&D curses laid down by angry spellcasters (such as the cleric spell Bestow Curse), Curses of Vengeance where a wronged party is heard by the Dark Powers and self-inflicted curses (aka Powers Check).

Anyone can call a curse of vengeance, from the lowliest peasants to the mightiest lord. Here's a few examples:
• The lord of an estate sets his hounds on a young Vistani boy caught poaching. The slain boy's mother promises that the lord will also lose his firstborn. When the man later sires a child, it is born a murderous spirit naga.
• A hedge wizard is falsely accused of murdering children and burned as a witch. Even as the flames lick at her feet, she swears to one day return and destroy the village that wronged her.
Curses of Vengeance does not grant the target a Saving Throw, and Spell Resistance does not protect against it.

So how does it work? The first step is writing the Curse. The more melodramatic and over-the-top, the better. This is the chance to ham it up, to use rhyme or some other device. The Dark Powers love that poo poo, and they're the ones you're trying to win over. Don't say "Mark my words, I'll be back! And when I return, you'll all be sorry!", instead say "You would burn me in the name of seven slain babes. The blood of your children is not on my hands — but it will be! Seven children from each generation shall I claim! Seven children times seven winters! And once I have claimed my due, I shall be born again — as one of you! As one of your own children, I shall bring ruin to you all!"

Curses should suggest game mechanics, while never going into full "I curse you to lose 2 points of Strength!" territory. Since prohibiting the use of special abilities is more frustrating than tormenting, it's often better to add consequences to those abilities instead (such as a wizard suffering blinding headaches when casting a spell, suffering 1 point of subdual damage epr spell level). Curse effects can be triggered or constant. Curses should have an escape clause, a way for the target to dodge it. Triggered effects have one by default: just don't do the thing that causes the effect. Redemption clauses are something that the cursed had to accomplish to get rid of the curse, a quest or story in itself.

Curses have different Severities:
Embarassing curses are mostly cosmetic, such as glowing eyes or a forked tongue. Usually just give a +1 to Outcast Rating.
Frustating curses are usually invoked to repay moderate offenses. They give a +2 Outcast Rating when active and have game effects such as -2 to an ability score, -1 to attack rolls or saving throws, really significant cosmetic details or needing to eat strange subtances (raw meat, ashes, gold, etc.)
Troublesome curses change the sufferer's entire lifestyle and are given from major offenses. They give a +4 Outcast Rating and have game effects like a -4 to an ability score, a -2 to two ability scores, moderate Fear/Horror/Madness effect, Deafness, being haunted by a ghost or changing alignment.
Dangerous curses are big loving deals and give a +6 Outcast Rating when active. Their game effects are stuff such as a -6 to an ability score, -2 to three ability scores, Major Fear/Horror/Madness effect, lycanthropy, polymorphed into an animal, stalked by a monster or rise as an undead after death.
Lethal curses are invoked only for the vilest offenses and can kill instantly or worse. They give a +8 Outcast Rating when active and have game effects such as -8 to an ability score, -4 to two ability scores, -2 to four ability scores, melting to death, turning into a monster (hag, undead, construct, etc.), or must kill once a day.

The roll to summon the curse is a charisma check, the DC depending on how justified the curse is (20 for highly justified, 25 for justified and 30 for unjustified). The invoker then makes a Powers Check, difficulty depending on the Curse's severity, and if it fails then the invoker receives a +5 to his Curse Check. Other modifiers include:

Ravenloft 3E book, p82 posted:

Table 3-5: Curse Check Modifiers
Wording Modifier
Mentions Game Mechanics -3
Includes Broad Prohibitions -3
Not Tailored to Victim -3
No Escape Clause -3
Powers Check Result
Succeeded -5
Failed +5
High +5
Average +0
Low -5
Dying Words +2
Invoker's Background
Male -1
Female +2
Spellcaster +1
Nonspellcaster -1
Voice of Wrath Feat +4
Outlander -2
Invoker's Alignment
Lawful -1
Chaotic +1
Good -1
Evil +1
So a Chaotic Evil female spellcaster with the Voice of Wrath feat has an inherent +9 to casting a Curse.

Powers Check
What is a Powers Check? Well, whenever someone commits an evil act in Ravenloft, there's a chance the Dark Powers notice and "help" that person, granting powers in exchange of a curse. If the person keeps committing acts of greater and greater evil, the powers granted and the corresponding curses will likewise gain in power until the foolish mortal is eventually granted a Domain of his or her own and becomes a full-fledged Darklord.

How does this work? Well, every time a PC commits an evil act, the DM can have him roll a D% and if it comes out equal or under the chance of failure, then the character is cursed by the Dark Powers. There's a huge chart detailing these bases chances that I'm not going to quote. The chances vary from 0% (Unprovoked Assault on Evil NPCs) to 16% (laying down a Lethal Curse), with most between 1% (lying to your family) and 6% (Brutal Murder of Neutral NPCs). The difficulty for criminal acts vary depending on th victims, and the difficulty for blasphemous acts (breaking tenets of your religion) depends on the alignment of the Religion. Casting Evil or Necromantic spells require a check with a chance of the Spell Level x 1% (2% for a spell that is both), such that casting Waves of Exhaustion would require a 7% Powers Check. All gifts and curses are tailor-made for the characters, fitting their psychology in twisted and ironic ways.

The road to being a Darklord, called The Path of Corruption, goes from Innocence to Damnation. Innocents are people who's souls are still untainted, mortals of Good alignment who have never made a Powers Check. Inocents get a +3 Divine bonus to all Saving Throws against spells and abilities that require a Powers Check or are used by Evil creatures. That's pretty drat good. On the other hand you receive a -2 penalty on Horror checks and Evil Clerics can rebuke you as if Undead. You lose the benefit as soon as you make your first Powers Check though, whether it fails or not.

There are three example Paths given: the Path of the Ringleader (for those who prefer to work in the shadows and through patsies), the Path of the Brute for cruel and unsubtle bullies and the Path of the Coward for, well, cowards. Every time you fail a Powers Check, you advance a stage.

Stage One: The Caress
At this Stage, the villain receives a minor boon and an embarrassing curse. The signs can usually be hidden with clothing, like tinted glasses or gloves.
Path of the Ringleader: The character gains the ability to cast charm person once per day as a spelllike ability, but whenever he does so, a strange spider skitters out from under his clothing.
Path of the Brute: The character gains +2 Strength, but his features grow subtly coarse and ugly.
Path of the Coward: The character gains +10 to speed, but only when loping along on all fours.

Stage Two: The Enticement
The slightly greater power is now accompanied by a frustrating curse.
Path of the Ringleader: The character develops a ravenous appetite for vermin. On any day the character eats at least a handful of spiders, he gains venomous saliva; a successful bite attack carries the effects of Medium-size spider venom (see the Dungeon Master's Guide).
Path of the Brute: The character grows larger and more menacing. His ability score bonuses increase to +4 Strength and +2 Dexterity, but he suffers a -2 Charisma penalty.
Path of the Coward: The character gains a +4 bonus to Move Silently checks whenever moving on all fours. The character grows thick pads on his hands and feet, making them resemble paws.

Stage Three: The Invitation
The Dark Powers now offer a powerful boon and a troublesome curse.
Path of the Ringleader: The character can cast summon swarm twice a day as a supernatural ability. The swarm spews out of the character's nose and throat and crawls back inside his body when the spell's duration ends. The swarm always starts centered on the character, but he can move it as a druid. The character also develops a ravenous appetite for rotting meat; if he does not eat at least 10 pounds of meat each day, he suffers biting pains (and 1d4 points of temporary Constitution damage) as the swarm begins to devour him from the inside out.
Path of the Brute: The character's Strength bonus rises to +8, and he gains a +2 bonus to Constitution, but whenever he is angered he automatically flies into a mad Rage (as the horror effect).
Path of the Coward: When running on all fours, the character's bonus to speed rises to +30, plus he gains a +4 bonus to Jump checks. However, he finds that fear grips him all the more often; he suffers a -2 penalty to all Will saves.

Stage Four: The Embrace
There's no turning back now. With the ever-increasing boon now comes a Dangerous Curse.
Path of the Ringleader: The character can summon swarm four times a day. Additionally, twice a day the character can will his symbiotic minions to spew forth and spin a web as a supernatural ability. Vermin are visible rippling beneath the character's skin; he suffers penalties of -4 Constitution and -2 Charisma.
Path of the Brute: The character is massive for his race, but he appears distinctly degenerate. His ability score modifiers increase to +12 Strength, +4 Dexterity, +4 Constitution, -4 Intelligence, -4 Charisma.
Path of the Coward: The character becomes an afflicted lycanthrope, transforming into a jackal (use the Monster Manual dog) whenever he fails a fear save.

Stage Five: The Creature
At this level of evil, it's suggested the character becomes an NPC if it wasn't one already. Having fully become a creature of the night, the character is now afflicted with a Lethal Curse.
Path of the Ringleader: Once per day, the character can expel his vermin with the effects of an insect plague spell. The character is a walking hive for his minions; he grows cadaverous, his skin diseased. The character's ability score penalty increases to -6 Constitution and -8 Charisma. The character must rely on his dark gifts to keep his henchman obedient.
Path of the Brute: The character's ability score modifiers increase to +14 Strength, +8 Dexterity, +8 Constitution, -8 Intelligence, -4 Wisdom, and -4 Charisma. The character is a hulking, brutal creature resembling an ogre.
Path of the Coward: The character can assume jackal form at will, gaining the Improved Control Shape feat. Despite this, the character still transforms whenever he fails a Fear save. To make matters worse, the character suffers a -6 penalty to all Will saves.

And so at this point, our three example characters have respectively turned into Gary Oldman from Lost in Space, a fairy tale Ogre and a cowardly were-jackal.

Stage Six: Darklord
This stage can be reached only after the utmost acts of evil. The Dark Powers grant the character it's own Domain and related abilities, along with forever keeping the object of it's greatest desires out of reach. No example given for this level, each Darklord has to be personally crafted. Each Darklord gain the power to close the Borders of their Domain, generate a Sinkhole of Evil, gain Turn Resistance if Undead, can detest the Disruption caused by a Paladin and some cease to age or become immortal. Most Darklords posses powerful spell-like abilities.

Next time: Magic

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
drat, mispost.

Huh, gently caress Witch adventures It's disgusting.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.


Sorry if these parts are kind of dry and boring. They're kind of a slog to write too: that's why I've slowed down a bit. The rules are really the least interesting part of Ravenloft anyway.

Anyway, magic! we start with General Guidelines detailing how magic is changed in the Land of Mists.
Abjuration no longer banish creatures to their home planes. Escape is hard. Instead, the target is thrown at a random location within Ravenloft, although not across Domain borders that have been closed.
Astral: any spells that would project someone into the Astral Plane fails.
Closed Domain Borders: no spell can enable someone to cross Closed Domain Borders, but natural immunities can (e.g. creatures that have no constitution scores can cross Strahd poison cloud).
Conjuration: any summoned creature gets a Will save (with a -2 modifier) to break free of control upon summoning. Likewise, called creatures cannot return to their home, staying stuck in Ravenloft until they find an exit. Attempts to call an Elemental have a 20% chance to call a Dread Elemental instead (a new type of creatures from the Ravenloft monster book). Summoning spells instead summon creatures from the surrounding area. Only creatures native to the Domain can be summoned, and they do not have the Outsider subtype. Elementals and Outsiders with the Mists descriptor are summoned from the Mists themselves and can be summoned anywhere.
Detecting Alignment: anything that detects or affects Moral alignment affects Ethical alignment instead. Innocents can be detected and targeted.
Death: spells with that descriptor require Powers Check, and people killed by them often return as Undead.
Divination is unreliable in Ravenloft, often giving misleading results or failing outright. Scrying works, except it creates a ghost organ at the location scryed which can be seen with a DC 16 spot check and can serve as a conduit of attack on the caster.
Enchantment: when forcing a creature to commit an act worthy of a Powers Check, it is the caster who must roll.
Ethereal: any spell that normally transport to the Ethereal Plane instead transports to the Near Ethereal.
Evil: evil spells all require a Powers Check, but are usually enhanced in some ways.
Extraplanar: despite being on the Ethereal Plane, all spells behave as if cast on the Material plane. Creatures from the Material Plane are treated as if they were on their home plane.

Sinkholes of Evil
A sidebar finally explains this term we've read multiple times by now. Emotions, especially strong ones, create resonance that lingers in the area where they took place. Acts of strong evil, then, create Evil Resonances that will keep haunting that area for ages. These Resonances are Ranked from 1 (weakest) to 5 (strongest). All Darklords carry a Sinkhole of Evil around with them. Rules-wise, they create a midifer applied to the DC of Will Saves and to the Turn Resistance of Undead. It goes +0,+0,+1,+2,+3 from Rank 1 to Rank 5. When in the Near Ethereal, these modifiers are stronger: +0,+1,+2,+4,+6.

Illusion (Shadow): When casting a Shadow spell, it is 20% stronger (duration, damage, whatever). However, when the Spell ends, a Will save must be made against the spell or it becomes a living Shadow out of the caster's control.
Mind Affecting: Undead can project false thoughts to people who scan them, and as mentionne din the Madness section reading the minds of some things will make you go CRAAAAAZY.
Necromancy: create more undead but they are harder to control. Likewise, msot Necromancy spells trigger Powers Check (NOW they don't all cause it?)
Teleportation: Teleportation is possible, the Mists transport the Caster instead of jumping to other planes. Also, each Domain count as a separate plane.
Weather: Darklords who have powers over the Weather can overrule spells that control the weather.

And that's it. :woop:

Follows a HUGE, YUGE list of spells modified that I'm in no way going to go over, gently caress that noise. Most spells ar ejust variations of "go look at the guidelines" anyway, with most others just saying "this requires a Powers Check".

Magic Items
Magic items are also affected by Ravenloft. Disruption: Undeads get +2 to their Fortitude save against these items. Creating Cursed Items or Unholy items requires a Powers Check.
Evil Intelligent Items have +5 to their Ego score and have a 50% chance to seek the Darklord of a Domain as a "worthier" Master.
Cursed Items follow the rules for Curses written earlier in the chapter.
A list of modified magic items, like the spell list above. I'm also dodging that.
A few modified Artifacts:
The Book of Vile Darkness: gives two free levels to Evil Clerics and also any good character make a MAdness roll (DC15)
Sphere of Annihilation: using it on a living being requires a Powers Check, and casting Gate on the Sphere doesn't create a Planar Rift, instead it explodes and deals a lot of damage to the surrounding area.
Staff of the Magi: Planeshift doesn't work.
Talisman of Pure Evil: to qualify as super evil, must be a Darklord or Evil Outsider.
Talisman of Pure Good: to qualify as Super Good must be an Innocent.

And that's it! I'm free! Next time we get to the cool stuff: the setting!

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

FMguru posted:

Yep. Anything that gives you additional actions (or worse, lets you stack multiple things that give you extra actions) is a flashing red light that your system is trivially breakable. It's often seen paired with its cousin, "Dexterity as a God stat", where having a high Dex means 1) you are harder to hit, 2) you have an easier time hitting or shooting or casting spells at other people, 3) you get to do things more often, 4) you get to go first more often, and 5) you get a bonus to any physical activity that doesn't involve raw strength and toughness. GURPS had this real bad.

Still not as bad as the worst game design idea, where unspent do-cool-things points become your experience points. 7TH SEA is the most famous offender, but it goes all the way back to early versions of RuneQuest.
I'm reminded of early Magic: the Gathering, where players very quickly figure out that cards that let you draw additional cards trivially broke the game, along with cards that let you take extra turns or force you opponent to skip his turn.

Hence why Richard Garfield's next CCG he designed after Magic, Vampire: the Eternal Struggle, had fixed hand size. Play a card, draw a card instantly.

Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.
I have questions about my next Ravenloft updates. Now, the next chapter is an overview of all the Domains in the setting, but it's missing one crucial element: The Darklords. Instead, some (not even all!) Darklords were covered in Secrets of the Dread Realm, a small booklet that came with the DM screen. A move White Wolf used to do all the time. So here's the question:

Since the Darklords are such core elements of the setting, should I add them to my summary of next chapter? Essentially adding Secrets into Chapter 4 of the core book.


Oct 12, 2013

Every species can smell its own extinction.

LatwPIAT posted:

Nah, see, the thing is you have to grog the paradigm of someone who're big on the social justice stuff (which is pretty cool, I'm big on it myself) but blind to unfortunate implications. So Heroes will be former slave-owners and Confederates, and Beasts will be escaped slaves. Only the Heroes are now claiming that the Beasts had to be kept in check because they are dangerous, while Beasts are wallowing in the oppression they're experiencing as freed slaves. The unfortunate implication? Well Beasts actually are dangerous, thereby "justifying" slavery...

That is exactly what's going to happen and it will be loving terrible.

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